With the badass ending clips and the entertaining Challenge Tower, Mortal Kombat 9 was the revival the series desperately needed. Not only was it a good springboard for the series going forward, but it also helped pave the way for MK‘s amazing sister series, Injustice: Gods Among Us.
3. Mortal Kombat II
The second Mortal Kombat game took everything that worked from the first and made it all that much better. The roster of seven grew into a collection of twelve. The hidden fighters went from one to three. Everyone was given at least two Fatalities, as well as Friendships and Babalities. Goro’s replacement Kintaro looked far more visually impressive, and Shao Kahn was one of the first fighting game final bosses to truly look like a force to be reckoned with.
Most importantly, this is where the franchise started to get weird in the best ways possible. The first Mortal Kombat always felt like it was on the outside looking in. It took place on Earth, but despite the inclusion of elemental ninjas, fire-spewing undead, and cybernetic eyes, the truly weird shit was coming from Goro and Shang Tsung. Mortal Kombat II allowed us to dive deeper into that world. This sequel featured blade-armed monsters, lizard people, magic clones with demonic teeth, trees with faces, and so on. The series was getting crazier, but it was handling that transition in the right way.
The gameplay may not be too deep by today’s standards, but it was still solid. Back when this came out, it showed you just how big an arcade fighting game could truly get.
2. Mortal Kombat 11
Mortal Kombat 11 didn’t always hit its mark. The Krypt system feels overly complicated and emphasized gameplay grinding to the point that NetherRealm had to issue an apology and update. Even then, the game’s loot box-lite system left a bad taste in a lot of fans’ mouths.
Crucially, though, MK 11 features probably the best gameplay in the history of the franchise. There’s more weight to the characters than ever before, and using separate meters for both offensive and defensive upgrades is simply brilliant. The cast is also so damn good, especially the choices of truly inspired guest characters. Not only do we get Spawn, RoboCop, and John Rambo having short conversations before their battles, but they’re all voiced by their original actors. Who doesn’t love getting to hear Keith David’s gruff whisper (even if we also had to deal with Ronda Rousey’s Sonya Blade portrayal in the process)?